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Planning Commission grants

Wednesday, October 25, 2000 by

Bradfield wastewater variance

Commission splits 5-4 on controversial question

The Planning Commission voted 5-4 last night to approve a variance for the Bradfield family to use the banks of Barton Creek for wastewater irrigation. The variance was the last hurdle in the city’s process for development—except for some minor “clean-up” matters—according to Sarah Crocker and Terry Irion, who represented the developer. City staff recommended the variance, which will allow treated effluent to be dispersed in the upland buffer zone of the creek.

In contrast to the long and complex discussions on the variance at the Environmental Board, the Planning Commission took action without comment. The tract, on the southeast corner of Loop 360 and MoPac, has been the subject of litigation between the Bradfields and the city. That litigation was settled in 1995 with an agreement allowing the buildings to be erected as specified by a site plan approved in 1987. Irion had made clear his intention to sue the commission if the variance was denied.

Commissioner Sterling Lands made the motion to accept the staff recommendation and Commissioner Ray Vrudhula seconded. Chair Betty Baker and Commissioners Silver Garza and Lydia Ortiz joined Lands and Vrudhula in voting for the variance. Commissioners Jean Mather, Robin Cravey, Ben Heimsath and Jim Robertson voted against it.

The Bradfield Family proposed building two five-story office buildings on the site but the City Council denied sewer service to the project because of a policy not to extend further wastewater service along the MoPac corridor near Barton Creek. Between the time the site plan was approved in 1987 and 1999, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) changed the rules for wastewater irrigation. The current rules require about 10 times as much land area as the old rules, Irion said. That is why the developer needed a variance not previously requested.

After the vote, Irion said, “It’s nice to have our site plan approved after 20 months.” The Save Barton Creek Association (SBCA) has challenged the Bradfields’ wastewater permit from TNRCC. However, TNRCC commissioners refused to grant the environmental organization a hearing last week. David Frederick, attorney for SBCA, said his clients would file a motion for rehearing with the agency. If that is denied, SBCA will probably sue TNRCC in district court. (See In Fact Daily, Oct. 19, 2000; Sept. 7, 2000)

Mueller redevelopment commission

Opposes trading airport land to Stratus

Commission elects Jim Walker as chair

Land should not be carved out of the Mueller Airport property until a solid master plan and master developer are in place, according to a resolution approved last night by the RMMAA (Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Advisory Commission).

The nine-member commission tackled concerns about the Stratus deal and reaffirmed its mandate at its second meeting last night. The commission also elected Jim Walker of the Mueller Neighborhood Association chair of the commission. Developer Terry Mitchell of Milburn Homes was elected vice chair.

The commission intends to hold firm to its mission of protecting the integrity of redevelopment efforts at the 700-acre Mueller site. That includes opposing a possible deal between the city and Stratus Properties to swap land at Mueller for land in the Barton Creek watershed.

Zoning the land for a traditional neighborhood design, commissioners agreed, is simply not enough to protect the integrity of the master plan developed by ROMA Design Group. It will take a Council-mandated master plan and a master developer to make Mueller work, they said.

"Zoning is not adequate," Commissioner Matt Moore told his colleagues. "Look what we've done with zoning so far. You go out ( Highway) 183 and it looks no different than ( US) 290 going into Houston. The process by which we decide what's going to occur doesn't seem to get us what we want out of this plan."

Commissioners, led by Walker, crafted a resolution to be forwarded to the City Council covering the following points:

• The disposition of land—or lack thereof—would be decided by a master developer within the scope of Mueller's master plan. • No land should be carved out of the Mueller site until a framework for implementing the master plan is established, which will include development tools to achieve specific goals such as affordable housing. • A timeline should be established to explore all the strategies and implications of land use.

The resolution passed unanimously, with Commissioner Gus Garcia absent from the meeting. Several commissioners stressed that the issue was control, not Stratus. During discussion of the resolution, Commissioner Matt Harris said the whole issue in his mind was the fact the city would lose "a huge amount of control" in the redevelopment of Mueller if land were handed over to an individual developer before options were explored. "A great many options that would be open to us would vanish," Harris said.

Walker has signed up for a spot on the citizen’s communications portion of Thursday's Council agenda. City Council Members Beverly Griffith and Will Wynn were both in the audience for some of the meeting. Griffith, who raised a few questions about how land would be carved out of the Mueller property, was pleased by the commission's resolution.

"I'm delighted that this commission sees the critical nature of having the opportunity to talk to the finest master developers in America to be in charge of the Robert Mueller project," Griffith said. " East Austin deserves the best, and this commission seems committed to getting the best."

Staff liaison David Kreider promised the commission that the city does intend to put Jim Adams of ROMA back under contract in the coming weeks. That will be followed by the process of zoning the Mueller tract for traditional neighborhood design and the formal adoption of the Mueller master plan by the City Council.

Planning Commission offers

Tillery neighbors some help

Noise, traffic caused by warehouse in neighborhood

Planning Commissioners Tuesday directed city staff to work with residents of the Tillery Street neighborhood to remedy traffic problems created by number of large trucks plaguing the area day and night. Many in the neighborhood have complained that elementary school children must share the streets with 18-wheelers while going to and from school. Brooke Elementary School is on Tillery Street, directly across from a warehouse.

Commissioners asked staff to explore limiting parking on 5th Street, Tillery and Linden Streets. Capital Metro employees routinely park in the area, leaving little space for cars and trucks. In addition, staff should assist property owners who want to rezone their industrially-zoned property, the commission said. The commission did not, however, begin an involuntary zoning rollback for industrial properties, as requested by former Commissioner Susana Almanza.

Alan Hughes, an engineer with the Public Works and Transportation Department, told the Commission there had been no reported accidents involving large trucks in the past two years. However, Hughes reported traffic counts around Brooke that raised commissioners’ concerns. The traffic on Tillery Street ranged from more than 3,300 vehicles per day to more than 4,200 per day. Residents pointed out that the counts were only made between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Trucks use the area all night too, they said. The 5000 block of nearby Bolm Road had only 1,878 vehicles per day. However, more than 7,600 vehicles were counted using the 5300 block of Bolm Road that same day, according to Hughes.

Residents complain of noise generated by the trucks. Hughes said the city has a noise ordinance, which prohibits “making noise at or near a residence.” However, only noise above 70 decibels is prohibited, he said. After the hearing, Almanza said one problem is several trucks coming to the Tillery Street warehouse at same time. The trucks leave their engines running, and the combination is far above 70 decibels, she said.

Mike Sheffield, president of the Austin Police Association, attended the commission meeting and told Almanza the police department is anxious to help the neighborhood solve the truck problem. Sheffield said the APA opposes truck traffic in the residential neighborhood.

©2000 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Last chance to give . . . Democrat Ann Kitchen’ s final fundraiser before the Nov. 7 election will be Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Cedar Street Courtyard, 208 W. 4th Street. Kitchen faces Republican Jill Warren for State Representative in District 48. The winner will take Rep. Sherri Greenberg' s seat . . . Voting less often attracts a crowd . . . Mayor Kirk Watson plans to announce an initiative to reduce the number of possible election dates in Texas to just four. The mayor is joining the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) in promoting the plan to limit elections to four—in January, May, August and November. Janice Cartwright of RECA said her organization believes that voter turnout would be improved by the limitation. She said the idea has the support of both the Republican and Democratic parties, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the Greater Austin and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.. . . Mayor to address RECA . . . Watson will be the guest speaker at today’s RECA luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel at noon . . . . Not in support . . . While the Mayor and several Council Members are working for the Light Rail referendum, Council Member Danny Thomas has decided to take a position of non-support. Thomas’ statement says he is concerned about the cost and impact of the light rail. “To resolve the congestion issue, it will require more than a multi-billion dollar band aid,” he says.

© 2000 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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